If you have been following the site over the last few weeks, you have likely seen our ongoing series ranking the quality of Jets Draft picks in each round over the last decade. The results are ugly. If you have followed the Jets in the last ten years, I probably don’t need to tell you that. These repeated failed Draft classes are among the biggest reasons the team looks like a contender for the top overall pick in next year’s NFL Draft.
Much of the blame goes to failed evaluations. The Jets have misjudged an awful lot of prospects over the last decade. Something else sticks out if you have been following the rankings, however.
Over the last decade, the Jets have made only 7 picks in the second round, 7 picks in the third round, 8 picks in the fourth round, and 7 picks in the fifth round.
Each team gets a single pick in each round. The Jets have traded an awful lot of picks away either to move up in the Draft or to obtain older players.
This has an impact. The Draft is a very inexact science. Think about it. Teams are trying to project the futures of 20, 21, and 22 year olds. That isn’t easy to do. If you’re in a hiring role at your job, you might know how easy it is to miss hiring somebody. A guy might have the perfect resume, interview really well, and have great references. Even a lot of these people turn out to be mistake hires. Maybe you’re hiring them for a job with different responsibilities they just can’t handle. Maybe they don’t get along with the coworkers at your company. Maybe they have problems at home dragging them down.
It gets even tougher hiring people right out of college. They might have a great GPA, but that might end up being a result of taking easy classes. Maybe they have trouble adjusting from the different worlds of being a student and being a full-time worker. Maybe they struggle moving to a new city after college.
The world of the NFL isn’t that different in this regard. Additionally, teams need to project how players will develop as they approach their athletic peaks.
Look at any of the best general managers, and you will see a lot of Draft picks that make you shake your head.
The Jets’ recent second round history is dismal. The list of players is David Harris, Vladimir Ducasse, Stephen Hill, Geno Smith, Jace Amaro, Christian Hackenberg, and Devin Smith. Only Harris has developed into a good player.
Let’s compare that record to the record of the New England Patriots in the second round over the last decade. The Pats have picked Terrence Wheatley, Patrick Chung, Ron Brace, Darius Butler, Sebastian Vollmer, Rob Gronkowski, Jermaine Cunningham, Brandon Spikes, Ras-I Dowling, Shane Vereen, Tavon Wilson, Jamie Collins, Aaron Dobson, Jimmy Garoppolo, Jordan Richards, and Cyrus Jones.
There were second round picks in there that were colossal failures every bit as bad as Ducasse and Hill. Wheatley, Cunningham, Dobson and Dowling were flat out terrible picks.
While there is no denying the Pats had a much higher hit rate than the Jets in this timeframe, part of the reason they were able to overcome these misses are the 16 picks they made. For you math majors out there, that is more than double the number of second round picks the Jets have made.
When the Jets missed on Ducasse in the second round, they were done. When the Pats missed on Dowling in the second round, they had a second chance and picked Vereen, a receiving back who helped their offense. When they missed on Cunningham in 2010, he was the backup plan in the second round because they had already picked Gronkowski. Later that round they picked Spikes to back the two up. When Dobson was a whiff, they had already picked Collins earlier in the round.
Sure, part of the success is they have simply evaluated better than the Jets. While the Jets are currently 1 for 7 with only Smith and Hackenberg providing any hope for improving that number, the Pats have landed star talent like Gronkowski and Collins along with quality contributors like Spikes, Vollmer, and Vereen. They also took Garoppolo who helped win a couple of games in favor of a suspended Tom Brady.
The Draft is full of uncertainty so it is good to give yourself multiple chances to get it right. Not many people consider John Idzik a strong drafter. In 2013 if he only had one first round pick, Dee Milliner would be the headliner in another failed round. Because the Jets had a second chance, they landed Sheldon Richardson. Because the Jets had a pair of first round picks, they only had to have a 50% success rate to leave the round with a good player. With only one sixth round pick in 2014, Idzik would have landed just Brandon Dixon. With extra picks, he used a later sixth rounder to get Quincy Enunwa.
Then if you ever have a round where you hit on multiple picks, you really hit the jackpot.
Study the consistently good teams in this league, and you will find most of them leave the Draft with more picks than they started with. They understand how random the Draft is. Something unforseen can make a pick a bust. Having extra picks in reserve helps eliminate some of the damage that comes from the randomness of the Draft.